Despite the 4:15am wake up call, it was better to fly early and have the full day ahead, since the drive from Morondava to Belo Sur Mer is 3 hours long. Morondava is located on west coast across Mozambique, right at the delta of the Morondava river.
Lelo, our local driver waited at the airport but could barely speak some French and no English. He turned out to be an excellent driver who knew the sandy road to Belo Sur Mer by heart. A well appreciated skill we drove an extremely narrow narrow sandy corridor in the dry forest. This is a toll road! No kidding, the locals have placed bars and demand tolls from passing vehicles, supposedly for taking care of the river crossings and make them passable. At the first toll stop, the guard was carrying a Kalashnikov, so the procedure was pretty straight forward, 5’000ar and off we go. The second toll stop was surreal. There was a 10 minute negotiation with several locals involved, some passing a joint from one another and finally the decision came to the chief who was arguing with Lelo over the price of the “ticket”. At some point the negotiaiton stopped and they were staring at each other, speechless, for a couple of minutes until we settled for another 5’000ar. Hilarious, but I did not dare to take the camera out to grasp the moment.
Belo sur Mer is a magical fishing village, south of Morondava, with a end-of-the-world ambiance, as Lonely Planet nicely put it. With a population of approx. 10’000, built on white sand, it is well known for its dhow and pirogue shipyards. We settled in the Menabe Ecolodge, a wonderful lodge maintained by four French retirees. The bungalows are spacious, raised over the sand, without any plumbing or electrical installation. To heat the water for showering, you place a black ceramic pot inside a wood enclodure with a mirror that focus the sun rays. The central hut serves as lounge, restaurant and bar and we had it all to ourselves as we were the only guests for the day.
The beach is naturally sandy and at the time we arrived the tide was low and rising. We walked through the strong currents to the sandy islands formed by the low tide.
In the afternoon, we walked to the village and photographed the locals, mostly kids, looking happy and playing on the beach. The village is clean with narrow roads, the properties have fences around the yards and the huts are made of branches. On the beach there are many boats under construction, the village is famous for the shipyards.
We came across the protestant mass, taking place in a half built temple, some 50 people signing and praying, a beautiful experience.
Dinner was excellent, we had fresh fish, rice and chilled wine. We booked the boat for the next morning, to go snorkeling and went straight to bed.
Next: Boat Trip on the West Coast.